Flat panel displays such as plasma and LCD screens are quickly gaining popularity for use throughout the home. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, manufacturer shipments of plasma monitors/televisions are expected to reach $2.4 billion in 2004, while LCD television shipments are projected to exceed $1.1 billion.

This growth has spurred the demand for mounting solutions — whether it?s to hang the display over the fireplace in the family room, from underneath a cabinet in the kitchen or on the wall in the master bathroom. Mounts provide consumers with an affordable means to maximize the viewing enjoyment of their display. These consumers will also rely on you to ensure their flat panels are properly installed.

Regardless of whether you’re a professional home theater installer or a retailer offering in-home mounting options, you’ll want to keep the following “Top Ten” tips and techniques at the top of your mind:

10. Plan ahead for your installation

Selecting the correct flat panel mounting solution is the key to a successful installation that will delight the end user. To minimize your inventory SKU?s, select universal mounts that are adjustable to support a wide range of flat panel brands and models. It?s also crucial to use the correct fasteners for the specific wall/ceiling structure (wood studs, concrete, and metal studs). Use only UL listed mounts to ensure adequate handling of the weight and stresses placed on the mount hardware and fasteners. Finally, play it safe – if you have any questions or concerns, consult directly with the manufacturer?s rep or salesperson.

9. Consider the Overall Installation

Think about the complete installation. Where are the power and AV cables coming from and how will they be addressed? Know in advance what make and model of flat panel you will be installing so you can locate the power and signal connections in the wall or ceiling accordingly. You may need a licensed electrician to add a power outlet before you begin. And how will you address cord management? Some mounts actually offer integral cord management. This is another example of where a manufacturer?s representative or salesperson can assist you.

8. Always Keep the Homeowner in Mind

Because wall and ceiling mounting of flat panels is likely a new experience for the homeowner, take time to ensure that you have covered all of the available options. You?ll need to see the room environment and locate all of the desired viewing locations in order to select a mount with the right features, such as tilting or articulating. Then obtain the homeowners approval, which is especially important when the mount is highly visible, like with an articulating wall arm. Spend time educating the customer about their options before the installation begins. After all, the last thing you want to do is take down the mount after the installation has been completed because the homeowner isn?t satisfied.

7. Make Sure the Structure is Strong Enough

If you are working with new construction, examine the structure of the wall or ceiling installation area to ensure it will support the intended load. Make sure you consider both the weight of the flat panel and the mount hardware. If the installation area is questionable, it?s a good idea to consult with a qualified architect or structural engineer before starting the installation.

6. Single Stud Installations

Larger flat panel screens can be mounted to a single wood stud provided the proper mount and fasteners are used. In fact, heavy CRT-type televisions have been safely installed on single wood studs for years. Choose a UL listed mount for single stud mounting, which has been tested to four times the load rating.

5. Check for Clearances

Check for clearances when installing the flat panel to the mount. If the mount?s adapter plate slides into or hooks onto the wall plate from the top, make sure there is enough space above the mount and the screen. And if you are installing an articulating arm mount, make sure there is clearance for full movement of the arm. This is a simple step that will reduce the chance for errors and maintain your efficiency. Mount manufacturers can usually provide technical specifications to help you with this process.

4. Installation in a Recessed Wall

When installing a mount inside a recessed wall area, be sure to review the instructions and the Manufacturer?s Technical Data Sheets for the specific model of mount and for information on where to locate the wall plate. For instance, if you are installing a home theater in a basement environment, you can possibly cut out the wall studs and mount the wall plate directly to the concrete or block foundation behind the framed walls. If you are installing into interior walls, you will need to add framing support or structure behind the existing wall. Don?t forget to review the flat panel manufacturer?s specs for ventilation requirements, as well. In all cases, make sure that the structure you are mounting to can safely support the load.

3. Proper Handling of Plasma Screens

Flat panel screens are always shipped in the upright position to prevent the solid piece of glass from breaking or popping out of the panel. In most cases, it is acceptable to gently lay the screen face down to attach the mount, but only for a short period of time. Before doing so, always refer to the manufacturer?s instructions on how to properly handle the plasma screen when attaching the mount.

2. Avoid Altering Mount or Adding Components

Altering the mounts or adding components that the mounts are not designed to hold will, in most cases, void the manufacturer?s warranty. Also, this could cause you to exceed the stated maximum load capacity, which then presents an important safety issue. It is critical to install the mount as it was designed, using the fasteners provided, and to only add accessories that the manufacturer indicates work with that particular mount.

1. Read the Instruction Manual

To ensure a safe and proper installation, take the time to read ALL the instructions provided from the manufacturer! Installing a heavy piece of electronics in a home involves significant safety precautions. The manufacturer?s design team takes this factor into account when designing the product and includes detailed installation instructions to eliminate any guesswork and avoid common mistakes.